Secondary schools should be less selective, says think-tank

Hautlieu School Picture: ROB CURRIE. (38235623)

JERSEY’S secondary school system needs to be reformed to make it less selective, according to a new report from a think-tank.

The Policy Centre Jersey’s Social Mobility Report said there was currently a “structural barrier” in education to those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is due to the high proportion of students attending fee-paying schools and the transfer of pupils at ages 14 and 16 to Hautlieu.

“This has impact on diversity within other secondary schools and in the development of students’ self-confidence and aspirations,” the report warned.

It called on the government to “begin the process of reforming the secondary school system to reduce the extent of selection”.

The think-tank said the government also needed to “increase the attractiveness of, and demand for, higher education on-Island to address the low level of aspiration among state school students”. But, the report added: “Addressing social mobility is not a matter for the government alone.”

There also appears to be “a relative lack of ambition” when it comes to education standards, according to the report, with Jersey schools performing on par with the England average at GCSE level but “well below schools in the south-east of England”.

Sir Mark Boleat, the report’s author, said: “Although people may believe Jersey always does better than the UK in exam results, the reality is different.

“Jersey should not be comparing itself with the UK but rather with that part of the UK that is most similar to Jersey in respect of population characteristics, that is the south-east of England.”

St Helier primary schools also faced a “more challenging task” than parish schools as far more pupils do not have English as a first language, the report stated.

“Children with English as a second language perform significantly less well than other children in education outcomes,” it added.

Early childhood education was highlighted as vital, with the report stating “disadvantaged children tend to benefit more significantly from high-quality early childhood [education], so there is a strong case for prioritising policies to increase participation among poorer groups”.

On university education, the report said that around 20% of UK students could reduce costs by living at home, an option largely unavailable in Jersey.

This “worsens social mobility” for local students from disadvantaged backgrounds who cannot afford living expenses to study away, it stated.

Jersey’s social mobility is further worsened by housing costs, according to the report. The think-tank said that the “bank of mum and dad” was crucial in helping people meet housing costs and become homeowners. However, many households struggle to cover day-to-day expenses and cannot afford to help their children.

This disparity is evident as 46% of social housing tenants and 34% of private tenants reported financial difficulties, compared to only 14% of owner-occupiers, according to the most recent Jersey Opinions and Lifestyle Survey.

“Those who bought homes years ago have benefited from rising prices” while “tenants cannot acquire that capital” and are “less able to help their children with housing costs”.

This perpetuates inequality as house prices jumped 141% and rental prices 128% between 2000 and 2022, while Jersey’s average house prices are 122% higher than the UK average and 25% higher than London.

In terms of employment, the report said that unpaid internships disadvantage young people from low-income backgrounds. It said: “70% of internships are unpaid – locking out young people who cannot afford to work for free.”

It added that employers could promote social mobility by enhancing recruitment practices, nurturing talent and improving socio-economic diversity in the workplace.

Education Minister Rob Ward said: “I recognise the issues raised in the report.

“I added lifelong learning to the remit in recognition of the role education has in social mobility. The department is also addressing the range of need in schools with the new funding formulae which targets funding areas of most need. This will give the educational opportunities for all in our society and support social mobility.”

– Advertisement –
– Advertisement –